Following last week's release of Justice Dennis O'Connor's national security Policy Review, which left the door open on Parliamentary oversight, NDP public safety critic Joe Comartin is advocating for a bill similar to one introduced in the last Parliament by former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan, which would have established a National Security Committee of Parliamentarians. Mr. Comartin (Windsor-Tecumseh, Ont.) said that prior to the bill's introduction, in 2005, there were all-party negotiations to come up with the legislation, and he suspects that similar all-party support still exists for such a bill. "There were a lot of negotiations that went around, particularly with regards to the mandate that the committee would have. Compromises were made, frankly, on all sides, and I haven't seen any change in attitude," Mr. Comartin, the NDP's public safety and justice critic, said on the Hill before Question Period last week. Justice Dennis O'Connor's second and final report into the events relating to Maher Arar, released last week, recommended the creation of a new Independent Complaints and National Security Review Agency (ICRA) for the RCMP, which would have the power to conduct self-initiated reviews and compel testimonial and documentary evidence. The report also recommended new "statutory gateways" to give greater powers to existing review bodies, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE). The report did not recommend a system for Parliamentary oversight, however, leaving it up to the government, and Parliament, to decide how to proceed. At a news conference on the Hill last week, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day (Okanagan-Coquihalla, B.C.) said that he welcomes a Parliamentary oversight committee for national security, adding that he hopes to work with the House Public Safety Committee to come up with a proposal. "I want to work with them closely to come up with a model that's going to work best," he said. "This is going to be in consultation with all of the people at the Public Safety Committee and I would think we're already getting advice from untold numbers of groups, organizations who have some thoughts on this. Finally, obviously, it'll be a government decision, but I want it to be as depoliticized a process as possible, as nonpartisan as possible." He pointed to Justice O'Connor's report, which looked at forms of Parliamentary oversight in jurisdictions like Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, as potential models for Canada. Under the bill introduced in the last Parliament, the oversight committee would have consisted of up to nine Parliamentarians from both the House and Senate and the government and opposition parties. The committee would review legislation, regulations, policies and administration surrounding national security and table reports in Parliament. Technically, it would not be a committee of Parliament, such as a House or Senate committee. The bill received first reading in November 2005 but died on the Order Paper when Parliament dissolved for the 2006 election. The committee would consist of three Senators and six MPs, who would be selected in consultation with party leaders. They were also to be permanently sworn to secrecy. "They would be sworn in, and they would not be able to disclose it to even their own parties," Mr. Comartin said of the proposed committee. He said almost all of the committee's work would be private, save for its recommendations. Mr. Comartin said he plans to write a letter to Mr. Day before the new year, advocating for a re-introduction of the bill, and that he hopes to follow up with the minister with a meeting in the new year. Support from opposition party members may apply some pressure to get the bill re-introduced, he said. Liberal Derek Lee (Scarborough-Rouge River, Ont.), for instance, in 2004 chaired an interim House committee that advised the Liberal government on the bill, and he is a strong supporter of the idea. Bloc MP Serge Ménard (Marc-AurPle-Fortin, Que.), his party's public safety critic and a former Quebec public safety minister, agreed that there is all-party support for establishing the committee. "Certainly on the side of the opposition, I think also on the side of the Conservatives," Mr. Ménard told The Hill Times following Question Period last week, shortly before Parliament adjourned. "I think Mr. Day said he would deposit a bill on this before Christmas, and there's just a few hours left," he said, jokingly. Mr. Ménard said the committee should have permanent members (or as long as they hold their seats), that they should swear an oath to secrecy and have full access to national security documents. "They should have access to everything, but then they have only the power of recommendations," he said. Mr. Comartin said he is concerned about resistance from the Privy Council Office and national security agencies to giving the committee and access to national security documents. "We know there was internal opposition, both at the PCO and in some of the agencies, to the committee being set up with any kind of meaningful mandate. They didn't mind if it didn't have any thrust or power," he said. "The question is going to be: will this government try to curtail the mandate even more or will they be interested, especially after what has happened with the RCMP in particular? Will they be interested in expanding the mandate so that the committee has even more power," Mr. Comartin asked. Mr. Comartin said he does not believe the committee mandate provided in the last bill is broad enough to have access to all of the necessary documentation, but he would be satisfied to see it passed as a first step, and perhaps to bring it back to the House to broaden the mandate, depending on how new security agencies react to it, he said. "I would be satisfied if this government went back to that legislation we had in the last Parliament. We were very close to running that through very quickly to get the office set up and Parliamentarians appointed and to start the work on it. So we've lost over a year. I would be still satisfied to go back to that, run it through, get it going, and then see over a two or three-year period how it works," he said. At a news conference in Ottawa last week, intervenors in the Arar inquiry said the bill introduced by the Liberal government, Bill C-81, was inadequate and would have allowed the responsible minister to interfere in the committee's access to information. "Intervenors are concerned that with these sweeping restrictions in place, it would appear that this Parliamentary committee would have no more access to information than CPAC viewers did to information at the Arar Commission hearings," a release from the intervenors said. Warren Allmand, former Quebec Liberal MP and solicitor general under Pierre Trudeau, now with the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, said at the news conference that the Parliamentary oversight committee should serve in a supporting role to the work of the review agencies. He said the committee should have the power to see that corrective actions recommended by agencies like ICRA, SIRC and the Commission for Public Complaints are implemented and that the review agencies are coordinating their work properly. "Parliamentarians on these committees are changed from time to time. They're changed by the whips. While they have an important role to play, we can't rely on a Parliamentary committee to do the basic job that has to be done for review and oversight," Mr. Allmand said. Others, such as Maher Arar last week, agreed that Parliamentarians should play a role but that the review agencies should do the review work. Conservative MP Gord Brown (Leeds-Grenville, Ont.) told The Hill Times last week that he is pushing for the creation of such a committee as a member of the House Committee on Public Safety and National Security. "Clearly Parliamentary oversight is something that would make it more accountable," he said of the RCMP, and he was surprised that Justice O'Connor's report did not recommend a system for Parliamentary oversight. "That doesn't mean we're not going to do it," he said. email@example.com The Hill Times Arar lawyer points to CSIS Maher Arar and the Commission of Inquiry are seeking the release of redacted information through federal court, and last week, Mr. Arar told a news conference that he suspects the blacked out information relates to CSIS. Mr. Arar said that he and the Commission of Inquiry, led by Justice Dennis O'Connor, are challenging the government in Federal Court for the release of the blacked out information in the first commission report. "From my readings on this, CSIS played a role in what happened to me, and I would like to know what role was that," Mr. Arar said at a news conference in Ottawa when asked what he expected to find in the redacted sections of the report. "We haven't got the full story yet. There's still quite a bit that's being withheld and we want to find that out first," Mr. Arar's lawyer, Lorne Waldman, who was also at the news conference, said. "We feel that the redacted portions are most directly related to CSIS' role. Obviously, we have no way of knowing that, but that's our suspicion." The first report of the Commission of inquiry said "some material" had been omitted "in the interests of national security, national defence or international relations." It added that the decision to omit the material was made by the government. –by Simon Doyle A New Review Mechanism for the RCMP's National Security Activities Canadian Departments, Agencies and Groups With Which the Arar Commission Policy Review Conducted Direct Information Gathering 1. British Columbia Office of the Complaint Commissioner 2. Canada Border Services Agency 3. Canada Revenue Agency 4. Canadian Air Transport Security Authority 5. Canadian Human Rights Commission 6. Canadian Security Intelligence Service 7. Citizenship and Immigration Canada 8. Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP 9. Communications Security Establishment 10. Foreign Affairs Canada and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) 11. Department of National Defence, Intelligence 12. Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre 13. Information Commissioner of Canada 14. Inspector General, Canadian Security Intelligence Service 15. Integrated Threat Assessment Centre 16. Department of Justice Canada 17. Military Police 18. Military Police Complaints Commission of Canada 19. Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner 20. Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services 21. Ontario Provincial Police 22. Privacy Commissioner of Canada 23. Privy Council Office 24. Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada 25. Quebec Police Ethics Commissioner (Commissaire à la déontologie policière) 26. Roberta Jamieson, former Ombudsman of Ontario 27. Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including: • Criminal Intelligence Directorate • Integrated Immigration Enforcement Team, "O" (Toronto) Division • Integrated Border Enforcement Team, Windsor Division • Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, "O" (Toronto) Division • National Operations Centre • National Security Intelligence Branch • National Security Operations Branch 28. Security Intelligence Review Committee 29. Toronto Police Service 30. Transport Canada Individuals and Organizations Who Made Submissions to the Policy Review 1. Amnesty International Canada 2. Andrew Zoczerzuk 3. British Columbia Civil Liberties Association 4. C.C. Kitteringham 5. Canadian Arab Federation and Canadian Council on 6. American-Islamic Relations 7. Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police 8. Canadian Association of University Teachers 9. Canadian Bar Association 10. Canadian Civil Liberties Association 11. Canadian Security Intelligence Service 12. Clayton Ruby 13. Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP 14. Communications Security Establishment Commissioner 15. International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group 16. Jiarong Tsang 17. L.D. Cross 18. Maher Arar 19. Ontario Provincial Police 20. Ottawa Police Service 21. Privacy Commissioner of Canada 22. RCMP External Review Committee 23. Rémi Hyppia 24. Royal Canadian Mounted Police 25. Scott Burbidge 26. Security Intelligence Review Committee 27. The Redress Trust, the Association for the Prevention of Torture, and the World Organization Against Torture Signatories to Joint Intervenors' Submission: Amnesty International Canada, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Arab Federation, Canadian Islamic Congress, Canadian Labour Congress, Council of Canadians, Council on American-Islamic Relations (Canada), International Coalition Against Torture, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, Law Union of Ontario, Minority Advocacy Rights Council, Muslim Canadian Congress, Muslim Community Council of Ottawa-Gatineau, National Council on Canada-Arab Relations, Polaris Institute, The Redress Trust, Association for the Prevention of Torture, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). Roundtable of Canadian Experts on Review and Oversight, June 10, 2005 1. Warren Allmand, consultant in international human rights 2. Reem Bahdi, Assistant Professor, University of Windsor Faculty of Law 3. Gwen Boniface, Commissioner, Ontario Provincial Police 4. Alan Borovoy, General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association 5. Stuart Farson, Professor of Political Science, Simon Fraser University 6. Norman Inkster, Partner, Gowlings Consulting Inc. 7. Dirk Ryneveld, British Columbia Police Complaints Commissioner 8. Wesley Wark, Professor, University of Toronto's Munk Centre for International Studies Roundtable of International Experts on Review and Oversight, May 20, 2005 1. Hans Born, Senior Fellow, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, Switzerland 2. Iain Cameron, Professor in Public International Law, 3. University of Uppsala, Sweden 3. Marina Caparini, Senior Fellow, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, Switzerland 4. Peter Gill, Professor in Politics and Security, Liverpool 5. John Moores University, U.K. 6. Ian Leigh, Professor of Law, Durham University, U.K. 7. Nuala O'Loan, Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, U.K.